Friday, October 31, 2008

The Happiness Continues.....

Last night was the last night of Communications. I brought both Ike and Bug since John was away on business and we weren’t sure what time he would be home.

Ike worked for most of the class, but I did bring the Bug out for a bit. We were working on teaching “Go” using a target plate. Holy doGs! I forget what an incredibly fun game Ike thinks this is.

But first I must admit that I YELLED at Bug – loud enough that Katrin came out of the barn to make sure everything was okay. I had both Bug and Ike out to potty before the students arrived. Ann was there with Partner (LR-SD-IT) and Bug was being a jerk. Barking and PULLING like a beast and growling at Partner. He was paying zero attention to me. Finally I yelled, Knock it Off. And guess what? I did NOT receive a belly. Bug knocked it off and kind of gave me some wagging “b-u-t….. Mum” faces. No melt-down!! This is HUGE!! I am still flabbergasted. I guess we have a relationship! And his confidence has grown! :D

Ike had a blast playing “Go.” He was super with Teddy (Sandy’s new AS puppy) and Daisy a 6 mo Lab/Poodle puppy. Sandy commented on what a change there is in Ike – he is so much more tolerant of dorky puppies. I think it helps that Teddy is pretty respectful of Ike. I am not sure if it is the Cat’s claw and Life Exxtension, being totally in alignment, or the fact that he hasn’t worked much in the last 3 months, but BOY is Ike happy.

I brought Bug in to work on the target plate, too and he no longer fears poles and offers a nice nose touch – even with the distraction of PUPPIES to play with! He was still being a bit of a jerk though – he growled at Calebo (LR)! Bug likes puppies because he thinks he can boss them around.

Then we practiced having the dogs run a half-circle of jump bars. Bug was SUPER!!! Happy and confident! I think doing the CGC class this session and then doing Communications and Equipment Foundations again are just what the confidence-doctor ordered!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Weaving Update

The gray lines are where we currently have cages. The red dotted line is where I recently removed a cage.

Carmen is doing SUPER in every combination of position, except for one. The red line (see below - the red and green lines represent my general position). When I am on the left heading out towards the back of the yard – she does 1-3 and then attempts to skip to 5-6. She does not miss poles 4-5 in ANY other positional combination – no matter how fast or slow I am. I am treating her while weaving between 3 and 4 and trying not to lean into her while doing it!

Anyone have any thoughts on what sorts of unintentional cue I might be giving her or if you think it might be a visual thing – what it might be? For now I am going to continue to highly reward while weaving through that patch (and for weaving in general!) – also using the clicker. We’ll see how it goes. I noticed an immediate improvement last night when I realized there was an issue, stopped my forward motion and treated her while weaving. She is at the point where if I stop and wait she will stop but she doesn’t offer the weaving of poles 3-5 no matter how long I wait – which makes me wonder what I am missing!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Schnauzers!

Yesterday started the new Tuesday night sessions and Ike started agility again. I don’t think I have ever seen him so happy – maybe in the competition heeling class. He was happy and fast – I almost crashed into him trying to get a f/c in! Wow. I think the boy might be feeling better! Thank you, thank you. Now I must remember to “Just Say No” to greediness and NOT decide it is a.o.k. to enter him in any sort of trial (except potentially Rally).

Carmen had her class first and she was super. The course (thank you, Katrin!) included a four jump serpentine and allowed for some definite use of the shoulders as directionals. I should say REQUIRED! I loved it! It is perfect for my current discrimination dilemma – which I am sure is partially a result of mis-directed shoulders!

We also played with a variety of course starts. I did a three jump lead out with Carmen, a f/c between jumps 3 and 4, and I ran on the right from 1 through 5 with a r/c at the tunnel. I tried to do a switch between 4 and 5 but Carmen wasn’t moving far enough ahead of me to allow it.

I need to work on changing my crossing plans during a run. This is what happened in both jumpers runs of the last trial. I needed to change my cross-plan based on the way Carmie was running and I over-thought and ended up staying with the cross I had “walked” the course in mind with which resulted in Carmie going, “huh?” I suppose it is progress that I know I need to work on this!!

The teeter and chute were in last night’s course. Carmen’s teeter is looking very nice. I definitely need to buy a chute – Carmie is back to trying to avoid it. Katrin commented that given her eye issue it might be stressful to be going into a dark closed tunnel. Egads! Yeah. I also occasionally use the word tunnel instead of chute and Katrin thinks that especially with Carmen I need a specific word. I need to remember and use chute consistently.

All in all it was a nice class. Carmen was really good and I felt like I handled the course and her decently. I was definitely more consistent speed-wise.

Ike’s class was next and it was fairly small. Ike was SO happy, prancing and wagging. We had some difficulty with the serpentine as I was pushing him out with my shoulders. He was So happy I was afraid to keep reworking it - in the past that would cause him to get stressed out and not want to play anymore. Somewhere along the line Ike figured out it is not all about him and that when we are reworking things it is because mum was a goober. He didn’t stress AT ALL about reworking the serpentine and eventually we nailed it.

It was amazing to me – at one point I more-or-less asked Katrin if we could just move on since I didn’t want Ike to lose his happy mood. I think she ignored me (intentionally or not) which made me nervous but was absolutely the correct thing to do. I walk on eggshells with Ike sometimes and that isn’t going to allow him to continue to develop. He is definitely figuring out that I am the one causing errors not him or he is no longer worrying about making mistakes? Either way I feel even more connected to him than usual.

I also made a concerted effort to cheer him on and have a grand old time. I think he benefited from it. It was cool to run Carmen and Ike back-to-back as they are so different. I don’t say much with Carmie at all! Commands and “Good Girlie!” are about it – with Ike there was much more dialogue going on.

To see Ike so happy makes me so incredibly happy. He was obviously pooped – this morning he stayed in bed much later than usual!

Adjusting and Denial

I am getting my head around Carmen's diagnosis. Yes, it sucks but Carmen doesn't care. Yesterday she greeted me with 5 individual kisses - for my little onion this is beyond generous! Obviously she was trying to tell me it is okay - she's fine.

We do not know how quickly or slowly the PRA is progressing so we are going to make the most of the time we have left to play agility. I know I will try to be observant and I know Katrin will let me know if she thinks Carmie's sight has worsened and she is becoming a danger to herself on course.

I just ordered two bright yellow tags from Boomerang Tags that say "I have vision loss" (which is maybe poor grammar? oh well) with contact info on the opposite side. I ordered one for my in-laws and one for me when I am trialing that has my cell phone number and says "I am attending an agility trial" on it.

Even though I took Carmen to see a SPECIALIST I keep having moments of denial. I think for a second, "Perhaps he was wrong. Maybe I should get a second opinion." Oh good gods, lady!

Since receiving the diagnosis Monday I realize small things that make so much more sense....

Carmen's occasional snappy/snarky behavior - peripheral vision suffers first.

Her dislike of the chute - going in to a dark closed tunnel when you do not see well in the dark?

Her refusal to jump out of the car when it is dark out/night.

Even though I wish the diagnosis were wrong, all of these things support that it is correct. We had a super class last night which I will post more on later.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Carmen's Eyes

Carmen had her ophthamologist appointment today at Animal Eye Specialists in West Bridgewater. The tech tested her tear production, used a flourescent wash to look for scratches, and also blew air at her eyes to test for glaucoma. I was starting to second guess myself and feel like maybe I was silly in suggesting Carmen see an eye specialist – maybe we should have gone to the regular vet first. Then the vet came in.

After taking a look at her eyes and asking about the discharge he told me she has conjunctivitus. Oh! That was unexpected. Then he spent quite a bit of time examing her eyes with something called an indirect ophthalmoscope (I am pretty sure). It was quite an interesting contraption. He said her retinal arterioles are smaller than they should be and that is a sign of PRA. Progressive Retinal Atrophy. He then had Carmen walk about the room with the lights on, dimmed, and off. You could see how confused and hesitant she was in the dim light – almost more so than with the lights off completely. Or perhaps it was just more noticeable to me. One of the first signs of PRA is night blindness.

Now it begins to make sense that Katrin would see the signs that she was having vision problems at the indoor – the lighting isn’t perfect.

The bad news is that there is nothing to be done for PRA. It is progressive. Carmen will go blind. The good news is that there is anecdotal evidence that Ocuvite might slow the progression of PRA. Ocuvite is an OTC vitamin which Carmen will be getting a ½ tab of for the rest of her life! PRA is hereditary. The vet said Carmen probably had micro-macular signs at six weeks.

Ugh, it sucks. I thought this appointment would be paying for peace of mind. That the vet would say she is near sighted or far sighted. Instead the diagnosis is one of my worst case scenarios. More good news is that the progression is typically pretty slow. Carmen can play agility until she becomes a hazard to herself! Hopefully quite some time. I will just need to be a very conscientious handler and make sure the lighting is good in the venues we play in.

I have sent an e-mail off to the breeder and will follow up with a phone call.

Progressive retinal atrophy, or PRA as it is frequently termed, is a long recognized, hereditary, blinding disorder. It is inherited as a simple autosomal recessive in most breeds. The first modern description of this problem was in Gordon Setters in Europe, in 1911, but since then PRA has been recognized in most purebred dogs. Millichamp et al. In 1988, described PRA in Tibetan Terriers. Also in 1988, it was found that PRA in Cockers, Poodles and Labradors was the result of a mutation at the same gene locus in all these breeds.

PRA is a disease of the retina. This tissue, located inside the back of the eye, contains specialized cells called photoreceptors that absorb the light focused on them by the eye’s lens, and converts that light, through a series of chemical reactions into electrical nerve signals. The nerve signals from the retina are passed by the optic nerve to the brain where they are perceived as vision. The retinal photoreceptors are specialized into rods, for vision in dim light (night vision), and cones for vision in bright light (day and color vision). PRA usually affects the rods initially, and then cones in later stages of the disease. In human families, the diseases equivalent to PRA (in dogs) are termed retinitis pigmentosa. (This page has a good picture of normal retina versus a mid-stage PRA retina.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Herding! Weaves!

I think that Bug and I had our best herding lesson yet - better even than when he turned on to sheep.

My major homework with Bug was "down" and getting Bug desensitized to the rake. When we arrived at Colleen's I told Colleen that Bug's down was really solid. She basically said, "we'll see how it is with those sheep." I know, I about a stimulating environment!

Blue & Iris had their lesson first - we have had Iris go first from day one when we were trying to turn Buggie onto the sheep. Yesterday Bug actually barked a few times outside the pen. He has never done that before! Cool!

We worked on "Get around" - walking around the pen and asking for a down. Switch directions by turning into your dog (switch the hand that is holding the rake) and "Get around" in the other direction. Bug did an AWESOME job with his downs.

A few things I really need to work on are:
  • not asking for a down a second time - we are in a stimulating environment and I need to remember that and let his brain process. I DO NOT want "down, down" to be his cue!
  • I need to make my release from the down MUCH less exciting. Colleen said if I continue to make my release from the down so exciting in the sheep pen Bug isn't going to want to down. Too true.

Next we worked on "Walk up" - walk in a straight line to the sheep - stop when they start to exhibit signs they are feeling pressure and ask your dog for a down. Bug and I have worked on a lot of focus exercises and we have a wee bit of trouble in the sheep pen as a result. I ask Bug to "walk up" and put him in a down and he watches me in the down the ENTIRE time. Part of this is also because initially I was looking at my dog instead of my sheep. Colleen said she would tell me when Bug looked at the sheep so I could verbally reward him and "get out." A "get out" is turning into your dog and walking in a straight line away from the sheep - releasing the pressure on the sheep as much as possible.

I need to play the Look at that Game from Control Unleashed and teach Bug to LAT on cue.

Next we worked on the beginning steps of having Bug "fetch" sheep for me - letting Bug bring me sheep. For the life of me I could not walk backwards with my sheep (as I discovered later with Hanna this is because I was watching my dog and not my sheep!). Colleen asked if I thought Bug would work for her. I said we could try. He would! he did! He still looked to me to cheer him on and say "yes, play with Colleen" but he was definitely trying to work outside his comfort zone! I am so proud of him! He also collided with a sheep and it didn't phase him at all (hopefully he held his alignments - thankfully he's seeing Anne Wednesday!).

Bug also showed VERY little sensitivity to the rake. Yay! Colleen commented that she doesn't think I will ever need to exert a lot of pressure with the rake.

The whole fetching sheep did not make sense to me, so Colleen went and got Hanna for us to play with. You might recall that Hanna ran roughshod over us soft humans a few months ago. I was a little bit nervous - but it turned out to be for no reason. Although I am sure she still took advantage in Colleen's eyes she was MUCH more responsive to me.

When Hanna was fetching sheep for me Colleen realized I was watching Hanna and not the sheep. Watching the sheep makes the entire process so much more manageable! We also talked about the fact that you can have the dog fetch you sheep in a straight line, it doesn't have to be in a circular pattern. As a novice I found myself walking in a tight circle and getting quite dizzy! Also having no place to go. Realizing I can zigzag all over the place was very helpful.

It was a GREAT lesson. I am SO proud of the Bug. We have a lot to work on:

  • Continue working on Down
  • Walking comfortably on either side and downing
  • Stay
  • Down-Stay
  • Look at That
  • Leave it (Bug thinks hay and sheep poop are delectable - not good.)

On the way home I decided I would take Bug to the Dirty Dawg Wash in Norwood. This is a new place where you can take your dog and bathe and dry him. Since Bug is shedding his summer coat (and had just been rolling in sheep manure) the idea of bathing him somewhere other than my house REALLY appealed to me. The owners were VERY nice. They have 4 tubs and multiple grooming tables - as well as all the blow dryers you could need. Hooray. Bug looked TWICE as big after his bath, but a lot of hair was released outside my house!

After dropping Bug off at home I went over to my in-laws to work on Carmen's weaves. I had six cages on a set of 12 weaves. One of the cages was off the weave poles by about 3 inches. Yesterday I removed it entirely. Carmen had about an 80% success rate with that cage removed completely. Not too bad. I am going to stay like this for a couple of weeks and them move a cage on the opposite end out about 3".

My FIL was watching and he noticed how fast she was before I removed the cage compared to her speed after removing it completely. He was watching from inside, so he did not realize I had taken a cage off. Carmen had to think more but I tried to set her up for success and treat her when she had trouble within the weaving motion. We ended on a positive note and I feel confident with practice we will get there. As my FIL reminded me - I have all winter!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Update on the Boys

Wednesday I took the boys to see Dr. Anne. Hallelujah! Ike is doing well – he gets to take a week off! I think adding the Life Exxtension (now discontinued – I had to stock up!) and cat’s claw has made a tremendous difference in his response to the Lyme. Next weekend is the Alternatives to Lyme seminar – I HOPE it is useful. I heard good things about the presenter, David Dalton, when I asked around.

Bug had his first full-body alignment now that his pelvis is all straightened out. I asked Anne about the stainless steel and she said she feels Bug has a sensitivity to it. Same with the Kongs. I mentioned to her that I was thinking about Kong’s as plastic and could she retest…. Same result – sensitivity. : ( Poor Bug.

I brought the Vetri-Science multi-vitamin and Glyco-Flex the boys take. They are both beef based and I wanted to be sure Bug can continue to take them. Yes. I also brought some beef tendon and bully sticks that I had bought in bulk. Nope. Bummer. Looks like I will be ordering some ostrich tendons. Robin also recommended some dried fish skin that SitStay carries. She said it takes her corgis a surprisingly long time to eat them.

Wednesday, during the day, I left Bug out of his crate with Ike. Gulp. Guess what I came home to? Multiple toys in every room!! Bug played ALL day. He is such a silly goose! The boys seem happy with the arrangement – today is day 3 – we’ll play it by ear.

Tomorrow Bug gets to go herding and we try out our down with sheep!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Safety: It’s That Time of Year

This is the time of year where my safety concerns switch from dogs left in cars with the windows rolled up to early morning/evening walk safety.

The boys and I take our first walk of the day at 6am. Here in Massachusetts it is currently pitch black for the whole walk. We have a variety of walks we take – some with sidewalks, some without. I do not trust people driving in the morning to see us – after all, one of my dogs is black!

Last year I bought Ike a reflective vest from PetEdge (these vests are also good for the woods if it is hunting season). I also bought a variety of cheap reflective leashes, but all of them only had reflective tape on one side. I was too cheap to buy the RuffWear leashes which have reflective strands woven into them.

This year we have been doing a lot of walking without sidewalks or street lights and people seem to be driving very fast. As a result, in addition to my small LED flashlight I bit the bullet and bought two RuffWear leashes at Especially for Pets. To my delight RuffWear makes a lighter leash that is also cheaper! $23 compared to $30 for the thicker leash (and on sale currently at the RuffWear web site for $18.70 +s/h). Not peanuts, but worth it for the boys.

My other hesitation about these leashes was the carabiner they have as a clasp. I was under the impression that you had to unscrew it every time. Not true. You do NOT have to lock it at all and in fact I think the carabiner – not locked – might be easier on the hands that a regular clasp.

I also bought these great reflective collars that you can Velcro on for walks from Spot The Dog at EFP. They are very easy to take on and off, only $10/ea, and a welcome addition to my safety arsenal!

Due to Bug’s white I don’t really think he needs a vest like Sir Ike, but I certainly need to look into something for me. It would do no good to have me be hit by a car and have my dogs survive!

Any suggestions from other safety-conscious walkers?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Act-Up Agility NADAC Trial

Bbbrrrr!!! I think I am still in the process of defrosting. High of the weekend was 54 degrees (12 Celsius) and boy, was it blustery.

Saturday I entered Carmen in Chances, Jumpers, Touch n Go, and Tunnelers. I had the most anxiety about Chances because I haven’t really worked on distance with Carmen. Also Touch n Go – Carmen has a lot of trouble with discrimination issues to date. I think this is for many reasons: She is an agility-baby; sometimes my mouth says one thing and my body says another; and she is a terrier and thinks her way is better.

Chances was a beautiful little run. The chance was a jump and the a-frame. Carmie didn’t have a lick of trouble with it. Go girlie! Chances is pass or fail – you and your dog must complete the course in under 40 seconds and successfully complete the distance challenge, i.e. do not step over the tape. Of course if you dog fails the distance challenge you SHOULD step over the tape and help them! Carmie got her first Chances Q. Hip-hip-hooray!

Jumpers went well in the sense that we did not implode! I remember I felt like I handled it in a very ugly manner, but we were successful none-the-less. Carmie Q’d and placed 1st.

Touch n Go was a tough course for us. There were hoops on the course and I attempted a front cross after the a-frame which left me physically pointing toward an off course tunnel. Guess where Carmen went? and it was totally my fault! :D I did not think she would have that much speed coming down the a-frame! Then we failed the classic tunnel/dogwalk discrimination issue. Carmen was tired and the tunnel was VERY inviting. So inviting she did the tunnel three times before I said “let’s just go, girlie!”

Tunnelers was hysterical. For the first time Carmie said, "I have a much better course in mind" and off she went. She was super fast and we were very disconnected!!

Sunday we were entered in Jumpers, Chances, and Tunnelers. In Jumpers I attempted a rear cross where I should have gone with a f/c. I was trying to push the envelope; I crossed too late and was practically on top of the jump. Carmen had no idea what I was trying to do. Oh, bad handler! She took the jump, Q’d and placed first beating out a herd of fast Pomeranians! Yay, Carmie. Thank you for doing diaper duty!

Chances was another short sweet course with the a-frame and a dogwalk/tunnel discrimination as the Chance. The dog-gods were on my side, Carmie needed to take the out-tunnel which is what she has been doing lately. Hooray. Chances Q #2.

In Tunnelers, the last run of the day, I got lost. The problem is that Carmen has been moving so fast (what a problem, huh?). I feel as though I started out trying to compete with her for speed. Bad, bad handler. Never race your dog!! You’ll always lose! How many times do I need to hear that? After that little bobble I just didn’t recover – at one point I literally couldn’t find Carmen. It was really funny!

Carmen is so much fun to run, even when things do not go as planned. I end up laughing because she is always so convinced she is right – and maybe if she is following my body language and not my mouth, she is! Our next trial (CPE) is in Conway, MA at Roaring Brook Farm at the end of November. After this weekend I definitely know how to dress for a fall trial!

In addition to volunteering and running Carmie, I was able to witness the agility debut of the following students and friends!

Carol and Aja, Belgian Terv
Shaya and Tom, AA (this is their post-Katrin/Maplewood debut)
Neil, Lael, and Makin, Vizsla
Claudia and Molly, PWD

Congratulations to everyone! It is gut-wrenching the first time, but I hope you and your dogs enjoy it as much as I do!

Sandy B with Baxter Black, LR took these super photos of me and Carmie. Thanks, Sandy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Communications #4

Last night in Communications class we worked on eye contact, backing up, moving waits, and hand touches. I also ran Ike over the teeter and dog walk a couple of times for fun before most of the students got there.

Katrin set up some channels to work on backing up and Ike did REALLY well. Typically he does a crouchy sort of backing up. Last night in the channels he really utilized that rear end. Hooray!

Ike also got some petting from Ann (with LR Partner) and didn’t mind all the youngsters at all (pretty young class – Ike is not only a ringer but an old man too!). He barked once at Teddy (Sandy’s new-ish AS pup) and that was random. He did give Teddy a couple of warning growls when Teddy was trying to greet me, but Teddy was very respectful and Ike didn’t act like a jerk with unecessary follow-up. Thank you, Bug!

Ike is definitely enjoying Communications. We need to make next week’s rally drop-in at Masterpeace. Ike wants more one-on-one work!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Chiro Update

Both the Bug and Ike held their alignments. Thank you, dog gods!! We have an appointment next Wednesday and then we are going to try two weeks out. Dr. Anne wants to play it by ear with Bug and his maintenance schedule.

It is funny, Bug is so happy with Anne. He wagged on the TABLE at her. He totally gets that she makes him feel better. Very cool!

Last week when I went to see Anne I told her that Bug seemed to have an ear infection and was showing some brown staining near his lower lip. My suspicion was a food intolerance of some sort. Due to Ike's distressed GI tract I had been feeding a fair amount of beef. Well, wouldn't you know it - Bug isn't tolerating the beef. Sunday I noticed Bug had a very red scabby on his chin! He hadn't taken a header or done anything else scary or stupid lately. hmmm....I called Katrin and she said that frequently happens to Niche when he is not tolerating a certain food.

So, no more beef for the Bug. When I told Anne about the scab on his chin she asked what sort of bowl I am using to feed him. I told her it is stainless steel. She tested him and suggested I switch to ceramic and stop using Kongs because of the plastic. Argh!! What am I going to do?! No kongs? I might have a mutiny in my house!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Putting it Together with Carmie

Yesterday in Carmen’s class Katrin had set up the equivalent of a NADAC Novice Regular run; except in place of the a-frame we had the teeter. The reason for the regular run? This weekend will be the very first agility trial a whole slew of MACT students. How exciting is that!?

My personal goal going forward with Carmen is to add more distance to my handling. I have asked Katrin for some exercises I can practice at home and to nudge me in class. I am going to try very hard to start incorporating more distance. Both CPE and NADAC have classes that require distance handling (Jackpot and Chances) and I don’t really want to stay in Novice/Level 1 forever! ;D And if I ever venture into other venues there are classes with distance challenges there too.

To that end I attempted to add more distance to the handling of last night’s pinwheel. The first attempt was a bit lame, but Carmie tried hard to figure out what I was getting at. Such a good girl. It got much better with the subsequent attempts. I need to remember to control my movement, not move too far ahead, and trust my dog. I have gotten MUCH better about holding physical cues.

Carmen nailed her teeter performance again. I think we are over the fly-off at Erin’s. Hooray! Her dogwalk was faster than I have ever seen it! Her weaves were excellent – no blow-bys!! It was a set of six weaves with one cage removed. The lack of blow-bys is huge – she has done them before even WITH the cages on.

She repeatedly did not see Katrin’s tire. I wonder if it was kind of in the corner and blue? She nailed the tire every time this past weekend at the trial. It was in every class/course.

I am really happy with last night’s class. I feel like Carmen is moving faster and trusting me. I tried some new things both with distance and consciously attempting to use my shoulders more for direction in turns. It feels good to be stretching my comfort level. It certainly helps that Carmen is a very responsive partner!

Equipment Foundations with Bug

Bug was MUCH happier about jumping yesterday. Hooray! He was a bit weirded out by the teeter at first, until he remembered it AND he was all over the dogwalk. Those little corgi legs were FLYING!!

I am amazed what a difference there was this week with the jumps. He still tried to go around them a couple of times but was much more committed to them in general. I think this has a lot to do with his pelvis being in alignment and the introduction of the toy to his jump training. Sandy B with Baxter Black (fave LR) was kind enough to lend me her copy of Get on The Ball. I think this will be a HUGE benefit to boy #2 and I was able to schedule an appointment with Debbie GS at the Cluster in November.

We also worked the weaves a bit and Bug showed very little hesitation and was definitely moving more quickly through them – not as fast as classmate AS Aidan, though! I think Aidan is the type of dog who cages make immediate sense to (very jealous Schnauzer owner here).

It was a very successful class, except for one bit. And it will come as no surprise it is the human part of the equation that had the issue. I brought a squeaky for the Bug since he loves toys so much. I figure it is a surefire way to get him all geared up about agility. We both played really well with it at first. Then he started to run out of steam and I KEPT trying to reward him with the toy. I need to learn to put the toy away when my boy gets pooped. I do not want him to associate that pooped feeling with his squeaky. The plus is that I have finally figured out how to successfully use a toy to reward (only took two years) – although I do still throw it too far away. If I can learn use the toy to reward then I can certainly learn to put the toy away before the boy gets too tired.

On a Toe Note:

Monty has made TREMEDOUS nail trimming progress. He seriously tries to hop up on the grooming table when I am there! Silly boy. Bug on the other hand….not so much. : (

Katrin and I are going to stop doing Bug’s nails for a while. He is not getting any better and he is SO stressed out. I walk the dogs multiple times a day on sidewalk and apparently it really does affect how the nails wear because Bug doesn’t have too much that needs to be clipped on a weekly basis. We are going to do his nails once a month and try to bring him over for play dates at Katrin’s. Right now he doesn’t want to get out of the car at her house. : (

Blog Action Day '08: Poverty

Given the current economic crisis here in the States, the topic of poverty is even more timely than it was a month and a half ago. I have toyed with many different ideas about what to post. I wanted to post something that combined the issue with my passion, dogs.

In the U.S. a country considered to be wealthy by many other countries' standards, 12% of our population lives below the poverty level. What does that mean?

12% of our population exists on an annual salary of $10,400 or less. Hmmm...pretty tough to fancy owning an animal of any sort on that amount of cash - isn't it?

Due to the current economic and sub-prime loan crises, the HSUS has started a Foreclosure Pets Grant Fund - one of the programs this fund supports is a Pet Food Pantry. My hope is that after the U.S. economy rebounds people continue to support such endeavors - it is one way we can help keep animals out of shelters in the long term.

Another organization in the U.S. that deals with animals and their owners living below the poverty line is Pets of the Homeless. This organization is based in Nevada. Their web site lists both businesses and food banks nationwide that do work with the homeless and their pets.

It is estimated by the National Coalition for the Homeless that between 5% to 10% of homeless people have dogs and/or cats. In some areas of the country the rate is as high as 24%. Most people who experience homelessness are homeless for a short period of time, and usually need help finding housing or a rent subsidy. But unfortunately for those with pets it becomes more difficult. Many are forced to choose between their pet or a roof over their head. Surprisingly, most choose to stay on the streets with their pets for longer periods of time. Their pets are nonjudgmental, providing comfort, an emotional bond of loyalty. In some cases they provide the homeless with protection and keep them warm. The tragic part is that the pets of the homeless do not choose their owners.

Internationally an organization that does wonderful work is Heifer International. Their tag line is "Charitable gifts that make a difference." For as little as $20 dollars you can provide a family with flock of chicks that can then go on to produce up to 200 eggs a year. This microenterprise is a way to help a family feed themselves on a more long-term basis. I have made donations in my niece and nephews names in years past; it is a wonderful way to help affect change in countries near and far.

Animals and poverty.....

There are the animals that might be placed in a shelter when their family experiences difficult financial times; the animals that are homeless with their homeless owners and provide a comfort no food or physical comfort can; and the animals that can play a huge role in helping to actually sustain a family.

Food for thought.


Last year's topic was the environment. Keeping with my theme I wrote about biodegradable poop bags!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hiking, Weaves, and Downs

Yesterday John and I took Ike, Bug, and Nellie for a hike at the Middlesex Fells. Not too long a hike, but very enjoyable none-the-less!

I think Bug is Nellie's best friend.
She hopped in his crate with him after the hike!

Today I worked on weaves with Carmen. I am fading one gate currently. She did super!!! We started with working on the ladder and interspersed ladder work and down-waits with weaves and jumping. Although fading the cages is going to take some time and commitment I think it is going to work and she will end up keeping her bounce through them - therefor it's worth it!

I worked Ike on the same things. He had the idea of the ladder in two seconds. It is funny because when I started training with Katrin he SO was not operant!! Now he offers behaviors and thinks outside the box much more frequently. It is cool and it gives me hope that Carmen will become braver in terms of offering behaviors. I just don't know her as well yet.

Bug worked on jumping with a toy reward. This worked really well although he is still not convinced jumping is fun. He went after a squirrel and wouldn't listen to me, so I started running toward the house. hah! I have never seen those little corgi legs move as fast as when he thought I was leaving him!

We also worked "down" at a distance. I am so proud of him, Bug downed readily with a toy in his mouth from about 20 feet away. I *think* we are ready to try it with sheep!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

3rd Annual Hilltown Hounds CPE Trial

Where to start? I think, next to the Act-Up and Addicted trials in Wretham, this location might be my favorite place to trial. The location, Roaring Brook Farm in Conway, MA was stunning, the Hilltown Hounds club members were super, and the day was well run! The actual ring and crating area was in the barn's indoor arena with a dirt floor.

The day did not start auspiciously. I got to the barn and was told crating was indoors and parking was in a back field. Club members suggested unloading gear and then parking. I stopped my car, unloaded my gear, went to start my car and it wouldn't start. WHAT? but we just drove more than 150 miles, how is that possible? I called AAA and they said they would be out no later than 8:42.

The ring steward was kind enough to allow Carmen to run at the top of the 12" dogs for the first class of the day - Fullhouse. In Fullhouse the handler designs their own course. In 40 seconds you must accumulate 21 points (for Level 2). 3 bars, 2 "circles" (tunnels and tire), and then a "joker" sometimes a contact obstacle, the teeter, or spread jumps - it is the judge's discretion. Yesterday the Judge Jen LaPierre had two spread jumps and the teeter all worth 5 points. Hmmm!!

Carmie and I started at the tire with a lead out so I could take her into the arc that went three jumps, teeter, spread jump, jump, spread jump, tunnel. Carmen had a great teeter performance! Sometimes she creeps on the teeter and yesterday I must have timed my wait perfectly because there was no creeping! Perhaps she is also regaining/gaining confidence about it. I knew I had at least 26 points so I opted to take obstacles on the way to the table and finish before the whistle blew. We accumulated 30 points in 31 seconds. Yay Carmie!! Our first Level 2 Leg and 1st place.

I ran into John from Good Whippet who we see in Wrentham fairly frequently and know via the blogosphere. He said he had jumper cables and I was welcome to borrow them. I was speaking to a club member who did not have her "agility dogs" with her and was just volunteering. She offered to see if we could jump start my car. Since AAA had not arrived yet we asked John's wife Dawn for the jumper cables and went to give it a whirl. Success!! Thank you Alice, John, and Dawn! I called AAA and cancelled my service call. I will be bringing my car to the mechanic this week. I either need a new battery or something is going on with my alternator. : (

In between classes and working I took the dogs (I brought Bug as a companion) for LOVELY walks on the farm which is a working stable. Lots of horses, at which neither dog barked! Although Carmen was VERY interested in them, she wondered if they were something she could attempt to tree.

Our next class was Standard Level 1 (due to the weave woes) and Carmen NAILED it. She had a super run, but I congratulated her physically before I crossed the finish line - which the judge had warned us about during her briefing. Oh well - it was a GREAT run. I am just happy we got to run instead of sitting it out. Carmen wasn't worried about the A-frame or the mirrors on the wall next to the dog walk (for riders to see if they have correct form, etc). Not much phases her - part of the reason she makes such an excellent agility dog.

Colors and Wildcard are both pretty simple game classes and Carmen picked up two more Level 2 Qs and placements. During Wildcard I had specifically chosen the A-frame as the more "difficult" obstacle (Wildcard Level 1 & 2 requires 2 easy, 1 hard obstacle choices) because Carmen likes contacts so much. I thought about the fact that it was the end of the day and perhaps she would prefer the tunnel, and then changed my mind. Nah - she loves the A-frame when she's in alignment. Hah!! She was pooped! She said, "Tunnel please." I had time to call her off if I really wanted to, but I feel like part of the point of Wildcard is to think on your feet - so we did.

It was a very fun day - I wish we were there again today! Breeze Thru Agility is hosting a trial there in November and there are still openings. I am VERY tempted to go. I have to think about it - November is pretty busy for me with seminars. A weekend off or more CPE in a great location?

I will scan the courses tomorrow and post them. All in all a great day - even with the car issue!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ikey P Goes Back to Work

And he says, “About time, lady!”

Ike has had a total of at least 8 weeks off from class. He sat last session out and then missed the first two Communications classes. It turns out that isn’t the worst thing that could have happened to Ike. He has been a bit out of whack and that damn Lyme has been rearing its ugly head.

I wasn’t sure what class to put Ike in given the fact that he has shown a distinct preference for obedience over agility (although he does like agility CLASS). Katrin and I thought Communications would be a fun refresher for him. That and the fact that Li and I were the only bites for Katrin’s Sunday Competitive Obedience class. Bummer!

Last night we worked on dogs finding eye contact, the space game, and moving waits. Ike rocked them all as far as I am concerned. His little stub wagged quite a bit and he could care less that there were no less than two gregarious Labs and a puppy in class! E gads, where oh where has my reactive pooch gone? We had a couple of barking fits, but they were minimal.

He was very engaged and offered a variety of behaviors. His current favorite seems to be a down and if that down doesn’t work he downs with his paws on your feet. Very cute!

We took Communication two years ago when I first started with Katrin and it was SO difficult. Ike was much more reactive and not very operant. Fun….not. It was an excellent learning experience though and wow, what a difference it made. Ike in communications class now is a ringer, which is fine.

In general I was really impressed with the other students and their pups. They all seemed to really “get” the idea and seemed willing to let their pups work. It’s definitely a difficult learning curve!

Continuing On follows the Communications class and I definitely considered running Ike, BUT I knew he was tired and didn’t really care if he ran agility. He had fun with Communications, why spoil the mood? C/T to me! Ike went home and drank just about a gallon of water. I am lucky I have a very kind dh who took him out for a quick walk before bed. Thanks, John! I am planning on leaving Ike home tomorrow (hopefully he isn’t reading this). When I bring him to trials I feel that he feels neglected – not ideal. I will try to bribe him with a very early morning Kong.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Saturday Carmen is entered in the Hilltown Hounds CPE Trial in Conway, MA. I anticipated our weaves being further along and entered her in Level 2 Regular. Well….our weaves are stuck at the moment. And in fact it looks like we will be forgoing weaves for the foreseeable future and working on them ALL winter.

I noticed in the confirmation e-mail that it says changes after 10/6 are a $5 fee. Hmm…I e-mailed the trial secretary today to see if it was legal by CPE to move her back to Level 1 Regular as she has not yet competed in Level 2. It is!

This is great news since there are only 4 classes and I planned on scratching Regular. Leaving me with 4 hours of driving and 3 classes. I was bummed. Now we can at least run in that class (I am not running classes which include weaves as part of a set course until Carmen’s weaves are SOLID). It will be good trialing experience, it “counts” toward the intangible qualities of creating a confident agility dog even if it doesn't "count" toward a piece of paper. The other Level 2 classes we are entered in are game classes, so I believe we can avoid the weaves with strategy, if they are even in the course design.

Of course I just received my handling title (CL1-H) in the mail last weekend and realized she need to be in Level 2 Colors, too. Argh – what a pest! Maybe I will get lucky and can move her up in that too.

It is kind of cool – the judge is the judge that was at Ike’s very first trial ever. She gave me Snooker nightmares (I had never encountered the game before then and it was a TOUGHIE!).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Putting it Together – Week # ?

Once again Katrin had a very fun fast course set-up. Check out her blog to see the course map. I am falling into the habit of only looking for rear-crosses and forgetting that there ARE alternatives! I think I am lazy – because Carmen is faster than Ike to get that f/c in I need to be faster. However she isn’t yet fast enough that a r/c is always the answer! I need to remember there are always options/choices and to think about them.

Carmen’s class was a bit of a wash. I think her brain was fried after the weave work. I think mine was too. I was unable to get the crosses in my actual running of the course that I planned while walking – and I didn’t really do an alternatively appropriate move. I just kind of floundered.

Perfect example: Jumps 16 and 17 I tried to do a rear cross sending Carmen to 18. (The act of actually USING a rear cross is still very new to me, given that Ike was my first agility dog.) I absolutely should have done a f/c after 16, but didn't until it was pointed out to me that was a possibility - I couldn't "see" it. I had rear-cross vision.

Carmie was definitely tired, taking wide turns, and not quite the Carmen I am getting used to. A couple of times she started to make a bee line into the other students and dogs like she wanted to go cause a brouhaha. Fortunately she came back to work/play when called. What a very good girlie. Considering how hard she worked earlier, it was a great class. No explosions and she kept working with me.

Bug's Equipment Foundation Class

After last Tuesday’s class, with the Bug not wanting to jump much, I KNEW his pelvis couldn’t be in alignment. Ta-da – it was not. The boys had matching out of alignment pelvis-es! Anne saw them last Friday, Monday, and will see them again tonight. Oi! The upside is I can tell Bug is now in alignment by what a silly-goober-corgi he is being. Even Katrin commented on how crazy/happy he was at the barn last night.

What does all this tell the proactive dog owner? Bug needs to be on a chiropractic maintenance schedule and I need to start doing some serious conditioning to build up his core muscles. I am going to look into Get On the Ball - Debbie Gross Saunders’ program for building core muscles in dogs.

Overall class went well last night. He was stellar on the A-frame and teeter. I need to convince him jumps are fun and I plan on doing so with toys! I have a dog who LOVES toys. I need to utilize this!! I also need to recognize he is a smart little bugger and will use his corgi wiles to play me, given a chance.

When this session ends I plan on taking the CGC class with Bug and then I would like to take Communications again. I want and need to take things VERY slow with the Bug in order to build his confidence up. In the five months he has been with me he has really started to blossom. I see a definite difference in his demeanor in the 3 (or 4?) classes of Equipment Foundations! I think if we take Communications again it would really be a benefit to both of us – and to our agility career together!

Weave Woes

Yesterday Carmen and I had a half hour (or-so) private with Katrin so she could evaluate what is going on with the onion’s weave performance. To date, Carmen really doesn’t get weaves – and we have been WORKING on it.

I was at the point where I wasn’t sure what the appropriate next step is and I needed an educated outside opinion.

When we got to Katrin’s house, I set Carmie up at the jump and released her to jump and weave (12 weaves with cages on the entry and alternating groups of three). She completely blew by the weaves. My impression, or rather worry was that she isn’t seeing the entry, since this is what has been happening – blow-bys. Katrin said she feels that Carmen is stressed out and doing the classic, “If I pretend it does not exist, then it does not.” Because Carmen has been so quick to pick up on things in general, I forget how literal she is.

Katrin took out a ladder and had me work on treating Carmen for walking in a straight line through the ladder. Fairly quickly Carmen was moving down the length of the ladder and stopping with all four paws within the confines of the ladder. Hooray. On to the weaves.

I have been using the cage method with Carmen and we cannot seem to progress. After watching Carmen work, Katrin suggested fading each individual cage, SLOWLY. The way Carmen’s brain works, removing entire cages was turning the weaves she “knew” into a completely new and stressful obstacle. Ah….in addition my body language was pushing her OUT of the weaves at times, so that is something I will need to work on.

Hooray! Now I have a plan of attack (huge, dramatic sigh of relief!). Katrin suggested considering it a winter project and to plan on working her on the weaves 3x a week for 20 – 30 minute sessions. These sessions will include ladder work, so it won’t just be me drilling her at the weaves! SLOWLY fading the cages by moving them further and further out of the picture. I am going to set up an excel sheet (date, what cages have weaves, distance cages are removed, Carmen’s reaction/progress, and length of weave performance) so I can track our progress and realize we are actually making progress!

In retrospect, Ike learning the weaves without dancing and luring was also a winter project. However, Ike’s learning process did not require slowly fading of cages – just lots of FUN practice. Carmen’s reaction to the weaves is so unlike what I experienced with Ike I really didn’t know what to think. I am certain if I am patient I can make weaves as fun for Carmen as they are for Ike. Or I certainly hope so!!

Monday, October 6, 2008


Carmie only needs a Jackpot Q to finish her CPE Level 1. I didn't realize that.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Corgi Herding Day

Yesterday I audited a herding seminar hosted by the Mayflower Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club. The club had Amy Hill come up from Florida. Amy has the first dual champion Cardigan (DC Cornerstone's My Dear Beli HXAsd HXBs HRDIII-s HTDIII-d).

It was an interesting day. Katrin had a working spot with Monty, so that was definitely the highlight for me. That and having the opportunity to see lots of Pems and Cardis herd. Katrin and Monty handled themselves very well.

A couple of the dogs worked ducks. It was cool to see how different working ducks is than moving the sheep around. The ducks break away from the gaggle frequently and the dog needs to go collect them.

The event was held at Black Birch Farm and the owner Diane also gives herding lessons. I might take a lesson with her just to see how she differs from Colleen - that and the fact that she is only 50 minutes away.

The only thing I continue to have a tough time with mentally is how much harsher people are on their dogs in the herding world. Not everyone and not all the time - and perhaps not even without reason. It is just different than the way I am used to training. Agility incorporates so much positive reinforcement. I suppose that is one reason I feel so comfortable with Colleen - I feel like she respects how I decide to deal with my dog and I don't feel like she is heavy-handed. It will definitely continue to influence who I work with. It is, however, a good lesson in taking what works for me and my dog and utilizing that bit of information.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Katrin set up a very fun, fast course last night. She said she would post it on Monty’s Training Diary and when she does I will link to it here.

It started with the tire, 12 weaves, jump, a-frame, f/c, jump, WRAP, tunnel. The tunnel was beneath the a-frame and should not have been the discrimination issue it was for Carmen. When she is in alignment she really prefers contacts! Perhaps she just wasn’t seeing the tunnel, and/or I wasn’t giving her enough information (loudly, consistently enough)? I am pleased with how tight she did the wrap considering we RARELY do wraps.

Leading into the second loop was a two (or three) jump go, rear cross into the tunnel. I end up racing Carmen and then running into the tunnel myself! Argh – consistency in my speed is going to plague me for the rest of my agility career. I can tell. It took me until my very last run to remember to be more consistent – that I don’t need to race her. That, that would be the point of having a go. Gah! The learning curve – some nights are better than others.

The positives are that Carmen’s adjustment obviously held as she was all over the contacts. She really hunkered down in the weaves (cages were on all 12) and she is definitely getting faster in general as we get more comfortable together.

The negative is that Katrin thinks I should have an ophthalmologist look at Carmen. She consistently has trouble seeing were certain colored jumps are, the table, the a-frame contact v. sand. Katrin thinks it might be a shadow issue. So, I suppose I should do that (drat!). The money is a slight concern, but the bigger issue is that I love working with Carmen and she loves it too. I think we will both be devastated if there is something going on that can’t be managed/dealt with.

This week we need to work on:

- Down;
- Weaves;
- Go; and
- Make an appointment with the canine ophthalmologist.

A-Frame, Tire, and Weaves

Yesterday in Bug’s Foundation class we worked on the a-frame, tire, and the weaves. Jumps and tunnels of course, too.

Prior to class it was corgi-toe day at Katrin’s house and I witnessed poor Mr. Bug getting all hung up in his leash. So if he was aligned – forget it! Thank goodness we are seeing Anne tonight. I could tell he did not feel great at class. He was still acting a bit off about jumps and I had them at 6”. Poor pumpkin. He was doing them for me but I don’t think he felt good.

We did the a-frame first and to my surprise - regardless of how soft he is – Bug did not have an issue with it. He did surprisingly well! And no issues doing the entire thing. Terrific! The way that Katrin introduces the a-frame is to have the dog walk half-way up, turn around and then ‘wait’ in the contact. Preferably in a sit at this stage of the game. Building rear-end awareness – or attempting to. Buggie was quite low-key about it and actually appeared to be seeking out the a-frame later in class. Silly goose!

While our classmates were having their turn we practiced down on cue. Bug is doing so well with this. I am very proud of him. Now to start minimizing my hand signal, and changing his location. Currently he is in the classic in front of the handler location. For herding I want to make sure he is comfortable at my side. I need to start adding in a “wait” as well.

Bug had some reservations about the tire – perhaps because he was being asked to jump again? We lowered it all the way down and he hopped through confidently. Slowly raised it up to 8” and he continued working. He does have a “what’s the easiest way” mentality at times.

Further proof that Bug is not a Schnauzer – he had NO hesitation about entering the weaves with the cages on!! Hurrah! I found it hysterical to watch him do the weaves – he was so precise. I half expected to see his wee tongue sticking out in an expression of concentration!

It was a good class. Bug is showing real growth in his confidence level with new things. My only concern is his pelvis. I think I need to talk to Anne about putting him on a regular chiropractic schedule and committing to it. It might be worth making an appointment with Mel (canine massage therapist) and having a lesson/treatment plan for him, too. I worry about that long back of his.

This week we need to:

- Continue working on down;
- Work on jumping;
- Contacts!